Full implementation of the Produce Traceability Initiative is still about two years away, but produce growers, shippers and vendors in Kentucky and Tennessee say they are moving toward compliance now.

“They’re working toward it,” said Dan Strasser, director of market development for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. “We also have programs at the department that help the producers meet their demands and get the equipment they need. They’re working hard toward that and determining what is needed and helping to educate them.

“That goes for (good agricultural practices) compliance, too,” Strasser said. “More and more are asking GAP compliance and producers are stepping up there, too.”

It’s happening in Kentucky, too, said Adam Watson, produce marketing specialist with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

“I do know a couple of the companies that are working with growers to develop labeling systems for produce that they’re supplying to the wholesalers. They also have labeling systems that identify what grower each product is coming from.”

Kenny Pendergrass, vice president of purchasing for Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Dixie Produce Inc., said PTI is a hot topic for understandable reasons.

“In the last little while, there have been a couple of recalls, and you have to be able to take care of those recalls,” he said. “I know ourselves and others have had to spend a lot of money over the last couple of years to make sure we can handle these like we’re supposed to handle them.”

Lee Forcherio, general manager of Memphis, Tenn.-based Orbit Tomato Corp., said his company is in the process of instituting a traceability system.

“We have actually gotten as far as tracing down everything all the way back to a grower,” Forcherio said. “We’re working now on getting the (Global Trade Item Number) on all of our products.”

Everything that comes through the company’s door is labeled, Forcherio said.

“I can track it back to whom we bought it from and it can be tracked all the way back to where it came from,” he said.

There’s more paperwork with PTI, said Jesse Conrad, operations manager and buyer for M. Palazola Produce Co., Memphis.

“We have to make sure we know where the product is coming from and make sure the paperwork shows what areas we’re shipping out of,” he said.

PTI is the future, so everybody has to comply, said Frank Campisano Jr., a salesman with Louisville-based Frank A. Campisano & Sons Fruit Co.

“The national chains are pretty strict,” he said. “You’ve got to get onboard or they’re not going to buy from you.”